So… you did it. You ruined your sleeping patterns and your ability to hold a conversation without saying, “one second, I have a TikTok about this I need to show you,” forever. Welcome.
Whether you’ve been balls-deep in the app and steadily ignoring the security concerns around it for years or have only just started down the infinite video path, TikTok can be a lot. With an opaque—and at times homophobic—algorithm at play and a seemingly endless series of niches to get lost in, trying to make sense of TikTok is often low-key overwhelming. And tbh, you don’t have to try to make sense of it if you don’t want to. Sometimes, as with the below, if you know you know. And if you don’t, maybe that’s sometimes better. 😬
I watch it every day♬ original sound – ♡ arilive
While an approximate knowledge of TikTok terms, trends and communities can be acquired by simply lying on the couch for three hours each night gazing into the abyss, your own silence punctuated only by the occasional gasp of shock/disgust/joy we thought it might be useful to build a little TikTok glossary out. Here are our best efforts at TikTok taxonomy of the common terms and trends on the app.
FYP / For You Page
The first question everyone asks, “what does FYP mean?” Cue the five minute back and forth of trying to explain it’s *for you.* Basically, the For You Page on TikTok is the default screen the app opens on. It serves you an infinite scroll of videos: a mixture of what the algorithm has decided you like (hence, ‘for you’), very popular videos and things tagged with #fyp. Tagging something with #fyp is done in the hopes of getting more eyeballs on your painstakingly crafted TikToks.
If you’ve seen someone put this in their TikTok’s description and wondered if they were referencing their education at the International Baccalaureate, you’d be wrong. And also me. ‘IB’ on TikTok means inspired by, and is meant to chuck some credit to an originator of a TikTok trend, dance or transition.
Same vibe as above, this common acronym means dance credit, and is intended to give kudos to the original choreographer of any given TikTok dance.
Himbo is a gently affectionate term for a beautiful, but innocently dumb man. Think Bolin from The Legend Of Korra, or Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove. It’s derived from the word traditionally associated with airheaded women, ‘bimbo’, but it’s more endearing than insulting to be called a himbo. Let us not read into the misogyny. 🙃
A Heather is essentially a descriptor for that genre of person who’s just really sweet, attractive and unproblematic. The current meaning, which strays from the mean-popular-beautiful girl associations that come from the 1998 film Heathers, is inspired by Conan Grey’s song “Heather.”
Speaking to Apple Music, Grey described how despite Heather’s kind nature and that she’s done nothing wrong, you low-key hate her anyway because she is the object of your crush’s affection or doesn’t return yours. “I think everyone has a Heather in their life. The person that I really, really liked was in love with Heather. They were not in love with me, and because of that, I f–king hated Heather. I hated Heather with all of my heart and soul. I had no reason to hate Heather. Heather is a perfectly nice girl. She’s sweet and she’s pure and she smells like daisies—she’s perfect, but I hate her. It’s this humiliating thing to admit, but it’s just true.”
A Foster Girlfriend is probably something that most long-suffering straight women have been (or seen their friends become) at one time or another. Essentially, it describes the experience of not being a legit partner to a dude, but rather fostering him through your relationship until he’s in good enough condition to move on to his forever home, aka, his next gf. Think teaching him how to cook properly, developing his emotional intelligence and communication skills, upgrading his dress sense etc.
“Alt” is a shortening of alternative, which, yes is the loosest umbrella term in the world. It can be applied to people as well: “alt girl” for example, might describe someone with aggressively artificially dyed hair, or an unconventional dress sense. Things that are chaotic, extremely niche, absurd go in the Alt TikTok bucket, but so do things that just don’t fit in the below category.
Also, I will literally never get over this passage that describes Alt or ‘Elite’ TikTok from Cosmopolitan: “Elite TikTok or Alt TikTok is a strange corner of the platform where there is no dancing or lip synching. Instead, it’s filled with unexpected audios, weird visuals, and tons of inside jokes. There’s definitely a superiority complex when it comes to Elite TikTokers as it takes time to curate your “for your page” to be filled with the oddities of Elite TikTok.”
Taste is a superiority complex… 😭
TBH, we try pretty hard to avoid this place. Just don’t need to see the same videos of white teens doing the same dances, ya know? We are on TikTok for the girls and the gays and the goths and the cottagecore lesbians.